Prosecutor turns his life around to free the Wrongful Convicted
Blind Justice, published August 2017, by Mark Godsey, blatantly exposes the psychology and politics of wrongful convictions, from the inside world of the justice system. Godsey, a former New York federal prosecutor, converted to the outer side and co-founded the Ohio Innocent Project (OIP), in 2003. In fourteen years, the OIP freed 25 exonerees of the 2,101 nationwide, whom spent a combined total of 18,250 years in prison, according to the National Registry of Exonerations. In Blind Justice, Godsey, also a professor at the University of Cincinnati Rosenthal Law School, provides answers to the question, “How are the innocent wrongfully convicted?”
“I left my prosecutors office arrogant and with an eye closed to the imperfections in the system. Only through a process of education brought about by being forced to help supervise the Kentucky Innocent Project, as a fledging academic, did I eventually recognize the need for change,” wrote Godsey.
Six of the eight chapters in the book begin with the word ‘Blind’ followed by, Denial, Ambition, Bias, Memory, Intuition and Tunnel Vision. Godsey explains how flaws in the human psyche and political pressures affect police officers, prosecutors, judges and defense lawyers’ objectivity and causes these ‘actors to behave in bizarre and incredibly unjust ways.’
“Because of my background as a prosecutor I felt I could answer some pressing questions about how actors in our criminal justice system behave that most others couldn't. From my perch as a prosecutor, I have witnessed bizarre human behavior that has left me both fascinated and shaken. I have seen how these human flaws have resulted in tragic, gut-wrenching injustices. I am honest about what I saw, heard and did,” said Godsey.
Godsey explicates several criminal cases the OIP exonerated including the 1989 Clarence Elkins murder of his mother-in-law and rape of his six-year-old niece, Dean Gillispie’s s serial rape conviction, Ricky Jackson who served 39 years for murder and Derrick Wheatt, Eugene Johnson and Laurese Glover, all minors known as the East Cleveland Three, whom served 19 years each for murder.
Godsey depicts the tricks and tactics utilized in police interrogations, photo line-ups, official misconduct, incentivized witnesses (snitches) and faulty forensic lab results that lead to false confessions, misidentifications, perjury and injustice. He shows how police and prosecutors manipulate and/or coerce memories to provide the ‘right’ answers for conviction versus the truth.
Blind Justice also provides answers for criminal justice reform, Godsey says, to correct serious mistakes, the need for humility and the ability to accept our human limitations in that ‘all of us are flawed, all are broken.’
Godsey details the necessity to implement structural and procedural changes to compensate for psychological flaws. He delivers concise solutions to problem areas such as complete videotaping of interrogations, tighter controlled snitches and the elections of judges and prosecutors.
Positive changes have occurred, ‘surely but slowly,’ due the innocent movement’s continuous growth. Godsey says more than 25 nationwide prosecutors’ offices opened conviction integrity units that exonerated 58 of the 149 persons in 2015.
“Prosecutor (Cuyahoga County) Mary McGrath’s act of freeing Ricky Jackson with an open mind and open heart is a testament to the power of this change. This was not a doomsday book. The good news is change is beginning to happen,” said Godsey.